The Tennessee Oilers certainly had the right team on the field this week.
One week after a special teams lapse led to a blocked field goal that ended a 23-20 loss to the Bears, the Oilers led 41-15 until Steelers backup Mike Tomczak came on to throw for two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions in the final 10 1/2 minutes.
"Last week was an unfortunate ending to a game where we played very well," said Frank Wycheck, who caught a touchdown pass. "This week was going to be a statement game that we're for real. It's a great win to have in a tough place to play."
It was the Steelers' first regular season loss in 11 home games and their first at home in the AFC Central since Cincinnati won 27-9 on Oct. 19, 1995. The 41 points were the most against Pittsburgh by the Oilers -- either Houston or Tennessee -- since the series began in 1970.
The Oilers (4-4) had wn only once in Pittsburgh since 1989 and were winless there since 1993.
But George, who had 54 yards in two games against the Steelers (5-3) last season, ran consistently at the injured-depleted right side of their defense. He had 101 yards by halftime -- his fourth consecutive 100-yard game -- and added a 37-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
The Steelers had so few healthy linebackers that Steven Conley, who watched their 20-13 Monday night victory at Kansas City at home, started at right linebacker after signing at midweek. And they played the second half without their best coverage defender, Carnell Lake, who sprained an ankle.
Leading 17-7 at the half was nothing new for the Oilers, who have led at halftime in every game this season. But this time they put together a strong second half as Kordell Stewart threw three interceptions, leading to two touchdowns -- including Lonnie Marts' 27-yard touchdown return -- and an Al Del Greco field goal.
"Ever since we've been coming
up here we've made it easy for them," Oilers guard Bruce Matthews said. "We make a lot of turnovers and hand them everything. We've come up here and messed up so many times."
In Sunday's shootout, Eddie George did the bulk of the rushing for the Tennessee Oilers. (AP)
Stewart, who had only 82 yards passing Monday, went 23-of-32 for 230 yards in his first 200-yard game since the AFC championship game in January. But his three interceptions -- he had only one turnover in his previous four games -- doomed Pittsburgh's comeback. Jerome Bettis gained only 26 yards on 11 carries in his worst game with the Steelers.
Stewart said it was his best game this season, but coach Bill Cowher disagreed, saying, "I don't think you can throw three interceptions and say it was one of your better games."
Cowher became extremely testy when asked if Tomczak, who was 15-of-17, might replace Stewart on Monday against Green Bay.
"No, no, no," Cowher said.
Stewart said, "I would hope I'm still the quarterback. It shouldn't even be a question, should it? To sit here and start a quarterback controversy, I'm not even going to answer that question."
With George running almost exclusively behind blockers Matthews and Mark Stepnoski in Conley's direction, the Oilers had scoring drives of 65, 88 and 72 yards in the first half. McNair finished off two drives with short scoring passes on third-down plays, 2 yards to Wycheck and 6 to Kevin Dyson.
"The Steelers are known for being the intimidator, and we wanted to show we could go out and be physical with them," McNair said.
The Steelers' only first-half touchdown -- Stewart's 9-yard scoring pass to Charles Johnson -- was disputed because TV replays appeared to show Johnson losing a fumble earlier in the drive.
But the Oilers made certain there was no controversy, as the first interceptions of the season by Darryll Lewis and Denard Walker led to second-half scoring. McNair also threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Willie Davis early in the fourth quarter that made it 34-7.
The Steelers recovered two onside kickoffs in the second half, but didn't score after either recovery, the second with just over two minutes remaining.
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